Jamison shop owner urges public not to give money to beggars after customers and staff abused

Lachlan Roberts 17 June 2019 51

Owner of Discount Hut Jamison Onur Cajina said the issue had been going on for nearly 18 months. Photos: George Tsotsos.

An owner of a Jamison shop has urged the community not to give donations to people sitting outside the front of her store begging for money after her staff and members of the public have had to endure a torrent of verbal, racial and physical abuse for not paying up.

Onur Cajina, who owns Discount Hut in the Jamison Plaza, says members of the public and even her staff have been at the receiving end of a spate of abuse from people begging on her doorstep for the past 18 months.

Ms Cajina said the same group of beggars in front of the store had verbally abused members of the public for not giving them money, had tried to steal from the donation bins at the local Anglicare and she had even witnessed them supplying cigarettes to underage kids in exchange for money.

But it was after one of her staff members was grabbed and shouted at by one of the regular beggars that she made a plea to the public to stop giving them money.

“We have been in Jamison for five years and over the course of the last 18 months, we have had people sitting at our doorstep looking for donations from members of the public,” she shared.

“Most of the time we haven’t had an issue with people sitting out there but we have incidents when they have shouted and screamed abusive language and it looks like it may become violent.

“There have been moments where we felt like we needed to lock the doors but we need to stay open for trading. The people in the offices above us can hear the abuse as well. It has been an incredibly uncomfortable position for us, especially our younger female staff.”

The public notice that Ms Cajina put up to tell her customers.

Ms Cajina said she felt helpless after her initial plea fell on deaf ears. In order to help her staff feel safer, she had rostered more on during the opening and closing times at the store.

“We have tried to have them moved on but we can’t,” she said. “We have made numerous phone calls to police and we have felt completely let down. A local community member has written to the Labor member for Ginninderra and has written to Mick Gentleman about this situation.

“We feel like it is a syndicate working here but despite all of this effort, we feel out of our depth. After the assault, we thought this is ridiculous and we aren’t getting the support we need.”

So Ms Cajina reached out to a local food charity and decided to put up a poster asking people to stop giving the beggars money and instead donate to ACT Food for Life, who cook food for the homeless.

Since putting the poster up in October last year after a year of altercations, she said the situation had slightly improved.

“We do not hate homeless people and we don’t have a business agenda here, but we want people to be aware of what is going on and point to a positive place to donate too,” she said.

“We wanted to raise an issue with our local community but also provide an opportunity for people to have a think about other ways they can donate. We hope there is a positive out of this and we can make a difference.”

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51 Responses to Jamison shop owner urges public not to give money to beggars after customers and staff abused
Matthew Pez Matthew Pez 3:46 pm 19 Jun 19

I don't believe these people are homeless, expensive drug addictions are involved and they are trying to fund it.

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:19 pm 20 Jun 19

    Perry right on point.

    We have posted on our page a statement that we hope focuses the attention back to why we made a public plea in the first instance. Thank you

    Matthew Pez Matthew Pez 9:24 pm 20 Jun 19

    Discount Hut I hope you guys can get action on the issue. I was also wondering, have you looked into hiring the right security guard? A private security guard might be able to move them on or at least make it uncomfortable for them?

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 10:03 pm 20 Jun 19

    Perry thank you, yes we had considered this option last year when the problem surfaced and the cost was unsustainable because the same group of about 6 individuals were taking shifts to cover the whole day 9am-4pm 6-7days every week.

    We have adjusted our rosters to ensure no one is one their own at work and this has come at a cost but we wouldn’t have it any other way now.

    Since we posted our plea to the public and started to make our community aware, from last Oct till now we have seen a huge decline and it was no longer a daily issue, however the assault came very unexpectedly just when we thought things were improving. The businesses within the plaza have, on numerous occasions requested a security guard for the centre but the plaza owners are not interested (we do not have the same landlord so we do not have a say). This is a difficult position but we may need to revisit your suggestion. Grateful for your time in replying 🙏

Anohs Llihpmeh Anohs Llihpmeh 11:38 am 19 Jun 19

A big bloke approached me after I got out of my car in Kippax carpark Sunday afternoon trying to sell me '$100 of meat' from a Woolworths bag. Unusual experience.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:17 pm 19 Jun 19

    Tell him you are vegetarian, whether you are or not.

    Bill Charles Bill Charles 12:52 pm 19 Jun 19

    Some people are given assistance in the form of Woolworths cards - however the cards cannot be spent on alcohol, smokes etc. An easy way around this is to use the cards to buy groceries, then sell them for a bit cheaper and use the cash to buy grog etc. Should have offered him $20 for the meat :)

Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:18 am 19 Jun 19

The ISSUE we are facing here at Jamison is one of COMMUNITY SAFETY NOT HOMELESSNESS.

The people begging outside all entrances to Jamison Plaza ARE NOT homeless. They are disadvantaging homeless people by portraying themselves as such. These people are often working as a syndicate and simply supplementing their Centrelink payments in order to fund their addictions.

As a community in Jamison for the past 18mths we have witnessed the same 6-10 individuals, time and time again:

• Throwing away uneaten food donated by the general public

• Driving around in custom built cars

• Chain smoking whist on iPhones

• Taking their ‘takings’ to the poker machines

• Purchasing lotto tickets with their ‘takings’

• Explaining how they have 14 dogs at home they need to look after

This is not suggestive of someone who needs money for food and shelter.

If we can highlight this issue, we believe the money that is given to these people, should be given to assist genuine homeless and disadvantaged people.

Canberra currently has an epidemic of people taking advantage of the community in front of local shopping centres by falsely posing as someone who is homeless, and with this; bringing a host of safety concerns to the wider community.

We urge all small businesses to voice their experiences on community safety in relation to this issue plaguing Canberra and bring it to the attention of their local community and their MLAs. Every small business forms a part of the community they service and these businesses need to connect with their community to keep it safe.

We are grateful to the ABC for the opportunity to allow us to voice our concerns within our community. This is where we grew up. This is where our kids are growing up and our parents are ageing. Please inform yourself and others because we want a safe and inclusive community throughout Canberra.

Discount Hut Jamison will continue to support FoodForLife who provide direct support to the homeless here in the ACT.

Lisa McRobbins Lisa McRobbins 6:27 am 19 Jun 19

Funny how they can be moved on in civic if they are in front of a government building minding their own business but not a shop in the community, so its ok for the public to be intimidated but not the precious government

    Sue Ellen Sue Ellen 7:42 pm 19 Jun 19

    They can be moved on from anywhere - see the Factsheet above. :)

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:02 pm 20 Jun 19

    Lisa yes this does cross our minds. We believe more can be done but we have bluntly been told on several occasions that they won’t/can’t move them on.

Steve Scott Steve Scott 6:48 pm 18 Jun 19

Walk a thousand miles in some else's shoes. We all have a story.

Leesa Hansen Leesa Hansen 5:50 pm 18 Jun 19

I feel your pain, I manage a prominent business in Dickson and it is positively awful at Dickson, you cannot go into Woolworths without being asked for money and I have been accosted 3 times getting into my car to leave at the end of the day by a strange individual, as have my staff also. Dickson is really quite a run down area especially near woollies and it certainly does not have a safe feel about it. Mawson had a nice upgrade perhaps Dickson should get the same treatment!!!

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:00 pm 20 Jun 19

    Leesa from our understanding Dickson has suffered immensely from this issue and the business owners there have worked hard but we need far more support from authorities on this issue than the current support we receive (or lack thereof). Thank you for your feedback 🙏

    Leesa Hansen Leesa Hansen 9:02 pm 20 Jun 19

    Discount Hut Jamison things were never that bad when I was at Jamison, I noticed the other day when I was over there, people sitting outside the post office, I wouldn’t let them!!

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 10:21 pm 20 Jun 19

    Leesa we miss you!

Peter Martel Peter Martel 4:50 pm 18 Jun 19

Yep woollies mawson is terrible for it, nine out ten times its Meth heads

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 10:04 pm 20 Jun 19

    Peter right on point.

    We have posted on our page a statement that we hope focuses the attention back to why we made a public plea in the first instance. Thank you 🙏

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 11:05 am 18 Jun 19

Begging is illegal. Call the police to get rid of them.

    Onur Cajina Onur Cajina 9:13 am 19 Jun 19

    Andrea, unfortunately it is not illegal in the ACT. We have been down all avenues on this one. It's been an 18mth battle.

Gemi Jeffery Gemi Jeffery 9:51 am 18 Jun 19

I'm getting totally sick of this whole trend.....can't go to Jameson or Kippax without having to get past them!!!!

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:16 pm 20 Jun 19

    Gemi from the feedback we have received from our customers, they too feel the same. No longer comfortable to walk past. It’s not right.

    Thank you for your comments

Moira Weston Moira Weston 7:02 am 18 Jun 19

There are people who due to mental health issues do not take advantage of the multiple services available in Canberra but unfortunately it seems that most of the ones outside the shops (Dickson is just as bad) are part of a organised group-same signs, mobile phones etc.

    Onur Cajina Onur Cajina 9:35 pm 20 Jun 19

    Moira right on point.

    We have posted on our page a statement that we hope focuses the attention back to why we made a public plea in the first instance. Thank you 🙏

maxblues maxblues 3:45 am 18 Jun 19

The ACT govt needs to buy a pushbike for the Belconnen cops. They could ride to Jamison in 5 minutes and deal with the antisocial behaviour. There used to be a nasty beggar In Belconnen who would intimidate girls and the elderly. He ended up having a nasty accident on some stairs….

Peter Stevenson Peter Stevenson 1:56 am 18 Jun 19

It’s funny how authorities seem unable to rectify the situation. Yet if I rode my motorcycle through a red light in front of the police they would pull me over quick smart. Maybe educate the beggars to sit in front of police stations, or outside the ACT Legislative Assembly 😉😎.

Frank Graham Priest Frank Graham Priest 11:02 pm 17 Jun 19

Yes, the 'street' offences, and 'move on' powers went a LOOONG time ago JD. Shame.

John Dillon John Dillon 10:08 pm 17 Jun 19

Well, the ACT used to have an offence of begging for alms. Very rarely used but was a tool for police to move the trouble before it started. Now have a guess which clown council removed it for their civil liberties. As always stuff the liberties of the ordinary public.......Now have a look at current Victoria legislation, even the left wing loonies down there still have kept....Begging for alms as an offence. I'll go back to my quiet corner now.............

    Andrew Warry Andrew Warry 8:36 am 18 Jun 19

    John Dillon don't forget mate we used to have Rouges and Vagabonds.

    John Dillon John Dillon 3:11 pm 18 Jun 19

    Andrew Warry Still do, but they seem to be the ones taxing us and putting up any charge they can.

    Andrew Warry Andrew Warry 4:13 pm 18 Jun 19

    John Dillon correct mate.

    Onur Cajina Onur Cajina 9:32 pm 20 Jun 19

    John great point and sadly now it’s left up to people like us to try and fix. Thank you for your interest in this article. As a small local business we just needed to be heard so that the community make better informed choices that does not jeopardise their own safety.

Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 9:20 pm 17 Jun 19

We should be ashamed that beggars are now so prevalent in our communities. An adequate social welfare and affordable housing system would avoid the need for anyone to beg. And don't say we've always had beggars, because they have only become quite common over the past few decades.

I feel bad that some of them are becoming violent, but it might be out of desperation. It is really governments at all levels that are harming us and exposing us to risk from angry, desperate people.

    David Murn David Murn 12:41 am 18 Jun 19

    It's worth noting that some of these beggars can make upwards of 3-figures per hour.

    There used to be a beggar in Kambah, who was actually banned from Woolworths because he used to sit outside the shop for a couple of hours, then come in and spend some of the money he'd collected on cigarettes and spirits in the bottleshop.

    Dan Connolly Dan Connolly 12:30 pm 18 Jun 19

    Seon Ferguson what are you on about??

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:38 pm 19 Jun 19

    David Murn do you have a source for your claim that some make. 3 figures per hour? I find that just a tad far fetched

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:11 pm 20 Jun 19

    Jill thank you for your comments. I think we have a genuine problem around this issue that touches on addictions, mental health, community safety; not just on homelessness issue. More people in government need to pay attention and play their part to resolve this. We have so much support services available for all these community issues but no one to guide the people to seek the assistance.

Denise Skinner Denise Skinner 9:12 pm 17 Jun 19

That is not real good

Sue Ellen Sue Ellen 9:07 pm 17 Jun 19


    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 10:29 pm 20 Jun 19

    Sue Thank you for this link. Very interesting reading however I don’t know if this is accurate as this is not reflective of the numerous responses we have received from police. They have advised us on so many occasions that they do not have move on powers and I am often confronted with the officer reading me their rights (the beggars) to sit and ask for money because they are not breaking the law. I will follow through with this information to see what Belconnen police have to say.

    Thank you for your time in extracting this information 🙏

Tara Maree McInnes Tara Maree McInnes 8:35 pm 17 Jun 19

Poor shop keepers

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 8:05 pm 17 Jun 19

The police in the act are so invisible. They don't do much.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 8:14 am 18 Jun 19

    Thanks all, yes the police were disinterested, which is my point.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 8:15 am 18 Jun 19

    Andrew Brien Ummm yes they did, read the article.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 8:59 am 18 Jun 19

    Andrew Brien where are they. I never see them at Dickson or Jamieson- never!

    Leos Nikias Leos Nikias 10:13 am 18 Jun 19

    Kriso Hadskini

    Quick to point the blame, aren't you!

    Paul Emmott Paul Emmott 2:55 pm 18 Jun 19

    Ive always wondered why nowadays you rarely see two uniformed police walking around shopping centres, presence is a key for situations that may occur around busy areas, security guards only work inside buildings and shopping centres.

    Sharyn Thomas Sharyn Thomas 8:59 pm 18 Jun 19

    Rob Thomas this is sad. I avoid places due to the intimidation and that impacts their business too. She’s a friend too. 😕

    Discount Hut Jamison Discount Hut Jamison 9:34 am 19 Jun 19

    Kriso Hadskini Thank you for the question. The lack of support we have received from the local authorities is exactly what prompted us to go direct to our community with our Public Plea poster and engagement with our community which has been 99% positive as they have seen first hand the problems we have faced and a small few have witnessed the violence. We still continue to try and work with the Police but unfortunately these beggars are well within their rights to sit and ask for money and in our experience, unless these people cause direct harm, they generally won't come out and certainly won't move them on.

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